Angola tries to recover 900 million dollars “placed” in Switzerland

In money laundering cases, the Swiss courts often come up against a serious problem: that of demonstrating that the money placed in Swiss banks has previously been ill-acquired in other countries. Quite often, it suffices for the owner of the accounts to benefit from connections at the highest level of state to escape sanctions. This will apparently not be the case in the Angolan case. The businessman Carlos Manuel de São Vicente, at the head of the AAA insurance group, was charged with money laundering by the Geneva public prosecutor’s office in March 2019. For months, the letter rogatory addressed to Luanda went unanswered. . But last week, the Federal Office of Justice (OFJ) in Bern received a visit from Eduarda Rodrigues Neto, Angolan Deputy Minister of Justice. She personally delivered a request for mutual legal assistance to the Swiss authorities.

This somewhat belated awakening of the Angolan justice is probably explained by the scandal caused in the country after the announcement of a sequestration of 900 million dollars held by Carlos Manuel de São Vicente and his family in the coffers of the Syz bank in Geneva. Nine hundred million dollars is quite simply “a record amount in the history of major financial affairs in Switzerland”, underlines the Swiss investigation site Gotham City, which revealed the affair last August. Between 2012 and 2018, the director and main shareholder of the AAA group deposited in his accounts and those of his wife, his three children, his sisters, his nephews and his nieces 1.1 billion euros. But it was not until November 2018 that the financial institution began to ask questions when Carlos Manuel de São Vicente was transferred in one go to his personal account $ 212,900,000, with the only explanatory mention “Transfer of funds ”.

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Laundering indictment in 2019

Certainly, the man (who also has a Portuguese passport) is considered a “key figure in the Angolan oil industry”. The AAA group notably sold insurance and reinsurance contracts to the state oil company Sonangol. Black gold being Angola’s main resource. In addition, Carlos Manuel de São Vicente is married to Irene Alexandra da Silva dos Santos, the daughter of the country’s first president, who died in 1979. Despite everything, such a “pedigree” does not explain how a businessman, what whatever his nationality, may dispose of such sums in his accounts. At the end of 2018, the Syz bank decided (finally) to transmit an announcement of suspicion to the authorities. Geneva justice indicted the businessman for money laundering in March 2019.

The case might have passed under the radar if the boss of AAA insurance had not taken the courts to try to recover the sequestered money. At first, he managed to get him $ 200 million back. But on July 9, 2020, the Court of Justice dismisses him for the remaining 900 million. The judgment underlines that it is “unusual for the CEO and chairman of the board of directors, even if he enjoyed, as in the present case, a power of individual representation of the company, has funds in his favor. belonging to a public limited company, in addition to an insurance company regulated by the State ”.

The businessman also attempted to censor the Gotham City article before it appeared. No result. On August 31, Me Clara Poglia, one of Carlos Manuel de São Vicente’s lawyers, replied to Point Afrique that her client considered that “any publication in connection with the aforementioned procedure violates the principle of the presumption of innocence as well as his right to protection of the personality “. Carlos Manuel de São Vicente is presumed innocent.

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